CMA Awards: Country music is turning into the soundtrack of a nonexistent, apolitical no-place


Hosts Brad Paisley and Carrie Underwood on the 51st Country Music Association Awards on Nov. eight in Nashville. (Wade Payne/Invision/AP)

Country singers like to speak about how they supply followers with a type of escape, however that simply can’t be proper. How are songs about on a regular basis life supposed to badist us escape from our on a regular basis lives? Country music isn’t a means out of actuality. It’s a strategy to get deeper within it.

But then I heard Brad Paisley — mainstream nation’s most progressive utopian — sing an ode to small cities referred to as “Heaven South” throughout Wednesday’s Country Music Association Awards in Nashville and all the things felt the other way up. “Turn on the news, you’d think the world ain’t got a prayer,” the tune went. “But if you turn it off and look around, it’s just another day in Heaven South.”

So all of our planet’s issues will go away if we cease taking note of them? I suppose that’s one strategy to escape actuality, nevertheless it was nonetheless disheartening to see Paisley, the CMA telecast’s co-host for the 10th consecutive 12 months, acquiescing to Nashville’s disengagement reflex and inspiring listeners to “turn it off.” Especially at this 12 months’s CMAs, the place not one artist discovered the braveness to say a single phrase about gun management after 58 followers have been shot useless at a rustic music pageant in Las Vegas final month.

And positive, no person anticipated the CMAs to remodel right into a three-hour city corridor dialogue concerning the Second Amendment. But did anybody anticipate such monolithic quiet after such a catastrophic occasion? Apparently, the ghost of the Dixie Chicks’ profession nonetheless haunts this city in terrifying methods. (In case you forgot, the colossally widespread nation trio spoke out in opposition to President George W. Bush at a live performance in 2003 and have been immediately boycotted by radio stations throughout the nation, sending the whole lot of mainstream nation right into a state of political paralysis that has lasted 14 years and counting.)

Now, a mode of music that used to proudly tackle the real-life struggles of real-life Americans gained’t go close to the difficulty that everybody in our harried republic is fighting. After final month’s bloodbath in Las Vegas, 26 extra folks have been killed in a capturing inside a church in Texas — the setting of numerous nation songs. Yet, as an alternative of singing about life in America, at present’s nation stars are singing about an apolitical no-place that doesn’t truly exist. I suppose it’s referred to as Heaven South, and apparently, you shield it by circling the wagons.

That was the plan at Wednesday’s CMAs. “Tonight, we’re going to do what families do,” co-host Carrie Underwood promised on the prime of the telecast. “There’s a family in this room,” Miranda Lambert mentioned after profitable feminine vocalist of the 12 months. “We’re a family,” Garth Brooks mentioned after taking the evening’s largest prize, entertainer of the 12 months. And so the brightest names in nation music stood collectively within the identify of standing collectively — which is mainly what occurs at this tightknit trade perform each November. It was nonetheless the identical annual group hug, this time just a bit tighter.

Despite the circumstances, the telecast’s organizers have been hoping for a business-as-usual evening anyway. Last week, after CMA officers introduced that they reserved the best to eject any journalist who requested an artist about their politics, Paisley instantly spoke out in opposition to that preemptive censorship, tweeting, “I’m sure the CMA will do the right thing and rescind these ridiculous and unfair press guidelines.”

And voila, they have been promptly rescinded. But that didn’t embolden any of the artists to volunteer their ideas on the state of the nation on Wednesday evening, not even Paisley. “I love the way we’ve all come together,” he mentioned throughout one interstitial section, as if he may be warming up some spontaneous bombshells. Then he confessed that he’d “gone off script,” and returned to the enterprise of introducing the subsequent performer.

As for the evening’s performances, lots of them felt deliberately strange, save for Keith Urban singing “Female,” a brand new solidarity anthem supposed as a response to the badual badault and harbadment scandals detonating throughout Hollywood. He wasn’t taking a dangerous place right here, and the tune’s lyrics aren’t the best, however the sentiment was welcome. Then once more, we have been watching a person sing about feminism at an awards present the place there have been no feminine nominees for the highest prize.

[Why ‘Female’ is necessary for nation music]

But Urban had the best concept. Awards exhibits give you a chance to say one thing important in an acceptance speech, however an amazing tune tends to ship a message a lot additional, and a few artists have already gotten to work on that entrance. In the times following final month’s capturing in Las Vegas, Maren Morris launched “Dear Hate,” a ballad concerning the everlasting battle between love and evil. Eric Church penned a tune about survivor’s guilt referred to as “Why Not Me.” And whereas each Morris and Church carried out at Wednesday’s CMAs, they didn’t sing both of those new tunes. Why not?

It left Underwood to present the night’s most somber efficiency, singing the hymn “Softly and Tenderly” throughout an “in memoriam” section that honored the live performance attendees slain in Las Vegas. In the tune’s last phrases, she sounded as if her voice had abruptly vanished from her throat — there have been a number of quick pauses the place the phrases couldn’t get out.

And when it was lastly over, you may need puzzled about all of the phrases that everybody else within the constructing had purposefully chosen to swallow all through the evening. Surely, at present’s nation stars have extra to say about this nation, its leaders and its legal guidelines, and the destiny of the folks they’re singing to. But if these phrases aren’t popping out now, when will they ever?

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